Elbow (band)

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Guy Garvey and Elbow.jpg
Background information
Origin Ramsbottom, Bury, England
Genres Alternative rock, art rock, post-Britpop, indie rock, electronic rock
Years active 1997–present
Labels V2, Fiction Records
Website elbow.co.uk
Members Guy Garvey
Mark Potter
Craig Potter
Richard Jupp
Pete Turner

Elbow is an English alternative rock band consisting of Guy Garvey (vocals, guitar), Richard Jupp (drums, percussion), Craig Potter (keyboards, piano), Mark Potter (guitar, backing vocals) and Pete Turner (bass guitar, backing vocals). They have played together since 1990, but since 1997 as Elbow, have released six studio albums: Asleep in the Back (2001), Cast of Thousands (2003), Leaders of the Free World (2005), The Seldom Seen Kid (2008), Build a Rocket Boys! (2011), and The Take Off and Landing of Everything (2014). All of their studio albums, in addition to Dead in the Boot (2012), have been placed in the top 15 of the British album charts,[1][2] and seven of their singles have been placed in the top 40 of the British singles chart.[3]

In 2008 Elbow won the Mercury Music Prize for their album The Seldom Seen Kid, and in 2009 they won the Brit Award for Best British Group.[4] In 2012 they released "First Steps", the BBC theme for the 2012 London Olympics.[5]


1997–2001: Formation and first EPs[edit]

Lead singer Garvey met guitarist Potter at Stand College in 1990 at the age of 16. Potter asked Garvey to sing in a band he was in with drummer Jupp and bassist Turner. Together, the four men formed the band 'Mr Soft' (the name was later changed to 'Soft'). Potter's brother Craig Potter joined the band soon after on keyboards. That year, members of the band first played together at The Corner Pin pub in Ramsbottom, UK in the Metropolitan Borough of Bury.

By 1997, they changed their name a third time to 'Elbow', after a line in the BBC TV drama The Singing Detective. A character (Philip Marlow) states that the word "elbow" is the most sensuous word in the English language, due to the way it makes the character feel when he says the word. The band then signed a deal with Island Records and recorded their debut album that was produced by Steve Osborne. However, when Island was bought out by major label Universal, the band was dropped in a mass cull and the album was not released.

They continued to record with the independent label Ugly Man and released The Noisebox EP, The Newborn EP, and The Any Day Now EP. These releases garnered extensive airplay on BBC Radio 1.

2001–2004: Asleep in the Back and Cast of Thousands[edit]

Their debut album, Asleep in the Back, was released on V2 in 2001, and garnered a Mercury Music Prize nomination and a BRIT Award nomination. Their second album, Cast of Thousands reinforced the reputation they had earnt from Asleep in the Back. The title of the second album is a reference to their performance at Glastonbury in 2003, where they recorded thousands of people singing, "We still believe in love, so fuck you". That recording was featured on the song "Grace Under Pressure".

In January 2001, Elbow donated their unreleased original (Island) version of "Scattered Black and Whites" to the Manchester Aid to Kosovo Manchester compilation Cohesion.

In 2004 Elbow toured Cuba, playing songs from Asleep in the Back and Cast of Thousands at venues in and around Havana. British documentary maker Irshad Ashraf was present on the tour and filmed a large portion of it. The resulting short film was shown at festivals in 2004 but remains commercially unavailable.

2004–2006: The Leaders of the Free World[edit]

Their third album, Leaders of the Free World, was entirely self-produced at Blueprint Studios in Salford, a space the band hired for the duration of their recording sessions. They teamed up with video artists The Soup Collective to produce an integrated music and video DVD.

In mid-2006, Elbow headlined the Ukula Bright Lights Festival in Toronto's Distillery District. Asked before the show about what he thought about his Manchester-influenced imagery in his songs, Guy Garvey said, "I think lyrics are one of the tools of the box in order to try to get the feeling across. I don't think it matters if you use local imagery as long as it's part of the bigger picture."[6]

2006–2009: The Seldom Seen Kid[edit]

In 2006 the band moved to Fiction Records and completed their fourth studio album, The Seldom Seen Kid in late 2007, which was produced and mixed by keyboard player Craig Potter. The album was released in March 2008 and has sold over 1 million copies to date. Elbow and Bournemouth-based band Air Traffic embarked on an extensive North American tour in May 2008, which was very well received by the media including Blender and Spin magazine. Elbow performed at Delamere Forest in Cheshire on 14 June 2008 as part of the Forestry Commission's 2008 music tours. They were supported by I Am Kloot. The band commented before the show, "We always love playing gigs in unusual places. We've never done a gig in a forest before so we're really looking forward to it." Elbow appeared on the Other Stage at the Glastonbury Festival on 28 June 2008, joined on stage by many violinists and cellists. They performed in the Obelisk Arena at the Latitude Festival on 19 July 2008. In August, they played at the Electric Picnic festival. On 9 September, they performed at the National Movie Awards broadcast on ITV. On 23 September Elbow appeared on BBC2's "Later Live" show hosted by Jools Holland. On 9 September 2008, Elbow won the Mercury Music Prize for The Seldom Seen Kid. The award was presented to them by Jools Holland.

On 14 March 2009, they played Wembley Arena.[7] Elbow performed at the Meteor Awards in Dublin on 17 March 2009. At this awards ceremony they also won Best International Band. In May 2009, the band won two prestigious Ivor Novello Awards: the song One Day Like This won the main award for Best Song, and Grounds for Divorce was voted Best Contemporary Song.[8] Elbow exclusively performed their album "The Seldom Seen Kid" for BBC Radio 2 and BBC 6 Music with the BBC Concert Orchestra and London-based chamber choir Chantage at the Abbey Road Studios on 17 January 2009 (first broadcast on 31 January 2009).On 3 July 2009, Elbow played to an audience of 80,000 at Rock Werchter. The next day, Elbow played a gig at Roskilde Festival, Denmark, to an audience of approximately 15,000. On stage, Garvey remarked that "last time we played in Denmark, 7 people came." As part of the Manchester International Festival, they performed with The Hallé Orchestra and Youth Choir at the Bridgewater Hall on 8 and 9 July 2009. These concerts featured specially-commissioned orchestral and choral arrangements of material spanning all 4 albums, the band themselves playing with the Hallé musicians and Garvey singing positioned just to the right of the conductor, Joe Duddell, onstage. On 11 July 2009, they played the Main Stage at Oxegen 2009 in Punchestown Racecourse, County Kildare. The band performed on the Main Stage at T in the Park on 12 July 2009 in Balado, Kinross, Scotland. And on 18 July, they played the "Escenario Verde" at FIB 2009 in Benicassim, Spain. They opened for Coldplay at several stops on the Viva la Vida Tour's 2009 North American leg. They performed at All Points West Music & Arts Festival in Jersey City and the Osheaga Festival in Montreal; Coldplay also played at both festivals. On 4 August 2009, Elbow headlined their second show at the 9:30 Club in Washington, DC[9] and on 8 August 2009, they performed at the Center Stage Theatre in Atlanta. They opened for U2 on 14 August 2009 at Wembley Stadium, London, UK and at the Sheffield Don Valley Stadium, Sheffield, UK.

2009–2011: Build a Rocket Boys![edit]

Elbow's fifth studio album, Build a Rocket Boys!, was released on 7 March 2011.[10][11][12][13][14] Upon its release the album hit Number 2 in the UK album charts, the highest position of any Elbow album to date.

The album had had the working title 'Lippy Kids'. Guy Garvey told BBC 6 Music's Shaun Keaveney "It's quite a nostalgic thing. I've got a thing about growing up, Not needing to! But a certain period of your life when – well kids are called 'hoodies' these days aren't they when they reach their teens. I remember it being an amazing important time, so I've written a lot about that."[15] On Saturday 11 June 2011, Elbow played at Pinkpop, the Netherlands. Again, the band preceded Coldplay.[16] On Saturday 25 June 2011, Elbow played the Pyramid stage at Glastonbury 2011. Music journalist Stuart Maconie stated that this performance by Elbow was "career-defining".[17] It was announced on 20 July that Build a Rocket Boys! had been nominated for the Barclaycard Mercury Prize. It was Elbow's third nomination and came just three years after they won the award with The Seldom Seen Kid. The award was won by PJ Harvey. Along with a busy year of releases, between 26 and 28 August 2011, Elbow performed at both Reading and Leeds Festivals after a long tour of British festivals including Glastonbury 2011. Elbow headlined the 2012 Latitude Festival on 14 July.[18] In 2012, "The Night Will Always Win was used in the opening credits and title sequence of Call of Duty: Black Ops 2.

2011–2012: Dead in the Boot[edit]

In November 2011 it was announced that they were composing the BBC's 2012 Olympic coverage theme tune, "First Steps".[19] The six-minute anthem was recorded with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra and the NovaVox gospel choir.[5]

Elbow told Festival Republic that they would only headline the Saturday of Latitude 2012 so they could celebrate their admiration of the French Revolution by closing their set with a large fireworks display in honour of Bastille Day.[20][21]

They were one of the few artists chosen to perform at the 2012 Summer Olympics closing ceremony, where they performed "Open Arms" and "One Day Like This" as the athletes began their entrance into the stadium. This resulted in a sales increase of over 1,000%, an increase that is among the highest of any performers.[22]

A compilation album, entitled Dead in the Boot, which Garvey described as "a real late night vibe",[23] features b-sides and "hard to find non-album tracks". It was released on 27 August 2012 and the title is a reference to Elbow's debut album Asleep in the Back.

2012–present: The Take Off and Landing of Everything[edit]

In June 2011 Garvey confirmed to the Daily Mirror that the band had started working on new material for the follow-up to Build a Rocket Boys!, saying, "Rich [drummer Richard Jupp] went into the studio and recorded several different drum patterns for me. I'll go away next week and try and write lyrics for them. We've never worked this way before, but we'll see what happens."[24] The band started recording the album in November 2012, with bassist Turner telling Q magazine that the new album would be "experimental": "We've been going very left-field with things. We are trying out new things".[25]

On 30 September 2013, the band simultaneously announced their first-ever live album, Live at Jodrell Bank, and the release date of their next studio album, 10 March 2014. Garvey said in an interview with Q that the Manchester band's sixth LP would be called Carry Her Carry Me, after previously having the working title of All At Once. The group spent two weeks working on the early stages of the album at Peter Gabriel's Real World Studios near Bath, which is an isolated studio and gave them a creative urge. Garvey told NME, "It's the least aptly-named studio in the world. Real World? Is it fuck. But when you're there, you get six months work done in two weeks. To go and live and breathe your record without the distractions of the rest of life, you make creative decisions you would not have made at home."[26]

In January 2014 the band announced that the album's title had changed to The Take Off and Landing of Everything and would feature the tracks "New York Morning", "Charge", "The Blanket of Night", "This Blue World", "My Sad Captains" and "Colour Fields". The album was released on 10 March 2014 and debuted at number one on the UK Albums Chart, becoming the group's first chart-topper.

Contributions and collaborations[edit]

The band made an acoustic cover of Destiny's Child's "Independent Women", recorded exclusively for a BBC Radio 1 session. It turned into a popular web animation by Rathergood.com's Joel Veitch.[27] The animation features a band of flat-capped northern kittens "performing" the song. In the same year, their song "Fallen Angel" appeared in the film 9 Songs.

In 2002, Elbow recorded a cover of "Something in the Air" (3:31) for the War Child compilation 1 Love.

Elbow contributed a song "Snowball" (5:00) to the War Child compilation Help!: A Day in the Life, in September 2005. Already recorded for the Cast of Thousands record, they did not think it fit the album and left it off. The song and lyrics were political, suiting the compilation.[citation needed] Another cover "Working Class Hero" (5:03) was recorded as part of a tribute album Lennon: Covered Vol. 1 given away with Q Magazine, in 2005. A The The cover of "August and September" (4:55) was recorded as part of a tribute album Q Covered: Best of 86/06 in 2006.

In 2009, Elbow contributed to War Child's Heroes album, covering U2's "Running to Stand Still". Garvey said: "When the band first met each other aged 17, Mark and Craig's father Gareth would lend us his Volvo to get our gear around. It seemed that for a year and a half all that we listened to in that car was Rattle and Hum. I remember the excitement every time a U2 album was released, we just loved them. The first song we ever covered together before we had enough of our own songs to do a performance was 'Running to Stand Still'. For 'Heroes' we've changed the order of things but kept every musical theme in the song. We wrote it with the members of U2 in mind. War Child do exactly what it says on the tin. These kids shouldn't be in such circumstances in the first place, but they are, so thank god someone's doing something about it".[28]

In November 2009, Britain's long-running arts series The South Bank Show aired a 60-minute documentary about Elbow on ITV. Combining live footage of Elbow's September 2009 live performance at Manchester Evening News Arena with an in depth interview between Guy Garvey and The South Bank Show presenter Melvyn Bragg, the first half of the documentary focused on Elbow's early career and attempts to get a record deal. The second half of the documentary featured elucidations of songs on Asleep in the Back, Leaders of the Free World and The Seldom Seen Kid. The documentary also contained sequences of Craig Potter demonstrating Elbow's unusual recording techniques at Blueprint Studios, Mark Potter driving around Elbow's old neighbourhood in Bury, Greater Manchester, Peter Turner showing cameras around Manchester's Northern Quarter, where the band played their first gigs as Elbow, and sequences of Guy Garvey reading through old and new lyric books. Some of the lyrics Garvey read out in these sequences became the lyrics to "Jesus Was a Rochdale Girl" and "High Ideals" on Build a Rocket Boys!

In 2010, Peter Gabriel released a version of Elbow's song "Mirrorball" on his album Scratch My Back. In return, Elbow recorded a version of Gabriel's song "Mercy Street" from his 1986 album So, which appeared on the album of Gabriel cover versions And I'll Scratch Yours, released in 2013.

Musical style and influences[edit]

Elbow have cited a number of influences on their music, including Genesis (in particular the progressive rock years featuring Peter Gabriel and Steve Hackett), Talk Talk and Radiohead. Guy Garvey has said: "I grew up listening to every Genesis record. I learned to write harmonies by listening to Peter Gabriel."[29] "Newborn", from Elbow's debut album, was directly influenced by "Entangled" from the Genesis album A Trick of the Tail.[30] He has also claimed: "There would be no Elbow without Radiohead." He credits the band's sense of dynamics to the influence of Talk Talk and has said: "Volume dynamics are an essential part of classical music, but a lost art with guitar music. I think it's incredibly boring and shortsighted if a band sticks with just one sound song for song. An album should take people on a journey."[31]

In a recent interview for ShortList about the British music scene, Garvey said: "We now live in a time where music is coming direct from the bedroom, written for a worldwide audience without being messed with or filtered."[32]




In 2010, Garvey explained in regard to the 2008 Mercury Music Prize: "As I said on the night, it was simply the best thing that had ever happened to us."[46]

Television appearances[edit]

Year Show
2011 The Album Chart Show
Year Show
2008 Later with Jools Holland


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External links[edit]